We all have our routines, our events and networks, our ways of making sense of the world. It all kind of makes sense in our little garden, we know where things are, and that is why we like it. I am going to propose something different: Go somewhere else. Have clients in a specific industry or function? Go where they are. Dive into what matters to them. Embrace the discomfort of too many abbreviations and half-forgotten theories from way back when, in a different time and country. See who their luminaries, gurus and hotshots are. Who they like and don’t like, and why. How they see the world and what significance they attach to the same outside reality. Suspend your snappy inner judge for a bit and just roll with it.
You might sniff at their beer selection and you might have neither the cheekbones nor the epic beards seemingly required for the industry, by the looks of it. Curiosity and genuine interest are always a good look, so whoever you are, and whoever they are, go for it. Get yourself in there. You will be fine. Listen and learn.
Whatever your discipline and professional practice – find related but different scenes and go to their parties, events, conferences, and consume their media, hang out on their platforms. Meet some new people. Network magic is in the weak links, not in the folks who know your jokes and finish your sentences.
The way things are going, these boundaries between disciplines will soften, and we are likely going to work in more portfolio-type of setups. We might have several different careers altogether, as one path weaves into the next, or a disruption resets the dial. You are going to need this, so get your practice runs in. It is also a whole lot more fun to work like that anyway. There are good people everywhere. They might be completely different from you in every way, but you’ll find they are people who care and who want to do something good that makes sense, and who have a craft they hone and that they use to make things better. I always take great comfort in that realization, it makes me appreciate the diversity and vastness of the human family.
What is something you are curious about? Anything that tickles your curiosity? An industry you are curious about? A hobby you are looking to take into something bigger? A passion waiting to become a potential business? Or a friend or colleague with a hobby completely different from your own?
Get your antennae out. Any conference or convention in your city? Any meetups, after work drinks, interest groups? Pick one and go. A lot of these are not expensive or even free. Take that half-day or day and explore. If you can, go by yourself so you can really immerse yourself and so that you have enough encouragement to go out and chat to people. If everything goes wrong, you will have stories to tell. If everything goes well, things to read up on and lots of new friends. And even better stories.